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Hawaiian Quilts

Hawaiian Quilting


One of the things I was especially excited to learn about on my recent trip to Hawaii was the art of Hawaiian quilting. I’ve always loved the bold colors and simple designs of Hawaiian quilts. Since I know that many of you love quilting and fabric as much as I do, that you would not mind if I shared  some of the things I learned and picked up on my trip.

I really wanted to buy a quilt when I was in Hawaii, but I was pretty sure that once I got there it wouldn’t be possible.  Since the quilts are all appliquéd and quilted by hand I figured that the price would reflect that. It did.  We only stumbled on one shop that sold the quilts and they were the price I thought they would be, which was too much at the time.

Hawaiian Quilt Square

The bargain of the trip turned out to be found at the Polynesian Cultural Center. In the park there was a booth dedicated to Hawaiian Quilting. There were some women there to answer questions and teach a little bit of  the technique. It turns out they were selling one of their completed pieces for $40.  Considering the amount of time and handwork that went into it, I thought it was a bargain.   It’s that gorgeous pink quilt square you see in the photo above. I can’t wait until I can finish it and put it in this room, as it matches PERFECTLY!  SCORE!

Hawaiian Fabrics


Besides the quilts, I also loved all of the print fabric that was for sale at many of the booths and shops we stopped at around the island. I know that they are “themed” fabrics, but I thought they were especially fun.  I’ve got a few ideas for projects rolling around in my head.

Here are some of the quilts that I found as we toured the island. The one is an actual all hand sewn Hawaiian quilt hanging in the Polynesian Cultural Center.  The detail on this quilt was amazing. I can only imagine the talent and patience it would take to complete a project like that.

Hawaiian Quilt


These quilts were mass produced and for sale.  Even though they were not all hand done the colors and patterns were still so striking.

Hawaiian Quilts for Sale

Hawaiian Pillow

Since I got home I have decided that I am determined to tackle a project.  I’m going to start with a pillow that I picked up in a kit. I also grabbed a few appliqué patterns.  I’m going to hand quilt and appliqué the pillow, but part of me is wondering if the “quilt police” are going to come and shoot me if I attempt to machine appliqué a project?  Maybe a fun bag or simple blanket? I don’t know we’ll see… if I do I’ll be sure to share it with you.

Hawaiian Quilt Kit

Since I’ve been home I’ve been googling tutorials and projects using the Hawaiian Quilt techniques. I thought I’d share with you some of the ones I’ve found. If you have one leave a link in the comments.

Quilts Hawaii Instructions

Quilted Hawaiian pillow cover at Martha Stewart

Hawaiian Quilt at Makezine

2 for 1 Hawaiian Applique on Youtube

Supply List for Hawaiian Quilt at Quilt University

Free Hawaiian Quilt Patterns

Hawaiian Quilt Making process at Minick & Simpson


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  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I have just started myself looking into trying some Hawaiian type, hand applique so this post is really useful! Thanks for sharing, glad you had a successful trip 🙂 xo

  2. What you may know but did not say is the history behind the quilts. They were very frugal and used both the negative and positive parts of the design to minimize fabric use, sometimes using the reverse design on the back. When quilting first began in the Islands, fabric was very limited. I’m not sure if only white or just solid colors were available from ships passing through. They may have dyed their own fabrics using native plants but I recall reading somewhere that fabric was not easy to get. The designs reflect the native plants. I received a modern quilt from as a gift (my daughter asked me to make a quillow for a friend) several years ago and it took me awhile to understand that there was no batting (!) Duh-it’s so warm that none was needed. My quilt is not the appliqued type but has multicolored red/white and blue/white flowered prints sewn in random patchwork with a tie-dyed backing-not quilted, with a solid red binding-all machine done. Some day I will mount it on a wall so I can enjoy it.

    1. Yes, I thought that the history was so interesting, but didn’t share too much since I wasn’t sure how accurate my information was.I think that’s the most fascinating part, to see what amazing things they were able to come up with because of their limited supplies. I bought a book when I was there I’ll have to read up a bit more about the history! Your quilt sounds amazing!

  3. I was totally looking for something like this a week ago! Thanks so much for sharing the links. I’ll have to try a pillow when my sewing skills get a bit better.

  4. It takes me about a month, to make a pillow. I work on it for about 2 hours a day during the week and 4 hours each day on the weekend. I highly recommend making at least one pillow the traditional way, it is so relaxing. The Big Island has 7 different quilt shops, that I visit when I am visiting my husband. Oahu use to have a quilt club that met on Thursdays at the Church. I am making Hawaiian quilt stockings for all my grandbabies, they are so pretty. Enjoy the process,

    Soul Wishes

    1. Thanks for the information! I agree I think that hand sewing work can be very relaxing, I used to smock a lot and thought it was very relaxing.
      I would love to go back to Hawaii, the Big Island especially, I’ve heard such great things about it.

  5. If you go to the big Island, let me know and I will tell you where all the quilt stores are, the places to visit and good places to eat. I visit the island a lot, maybe because my husband lives there, lol.


  6. I love Hawaiian quilts also. I went to the big island couple of years ago and i too was hoping to buy a quilt but out of my price range. I bought some fabric batiks and a quilt book to make my own. i have three blocks finished and staying with tradition all hand sewn. i was delighted to find your post because it has renewed my interest. The whole history is fascinating and i love the stories behind each design. I hope you get to finish one too.

    1. You just reminded me to get out the kit I bought when I was in Hawaii, it’s been too long on the “pile” an is time to get working on it.

  7. I was fortunate enough to have lived on Oahu for a year and would go to the Bishop Museum twice a week to work on a pillow top. After I finished that the lovely lady leading the class cut me an original quilt top with the flowers of Hawaii…Hibiscus, plum aria. orchid. ginger. anthrium and palm branches…It is unique in that it has all the islands in the middle. Her name is Deborah U. Kakalia and she was at the museum each time I went. She is famous for her quilts and the unique thing about them is they all have a star in the middle. This is something that was not suppose to be done because the legend is a hole in the quilt lets the spirit of the quilt out. Her name for my quilt is Aina Kaulana O Hawaii (Famous Islands of Hawaii). I have since made six pillows and finally finished the quilt. I have many happy memories of that time in my life.

    1. I didn’t know that about the legend with the hole in the quilt- thank you so much for sharing! I wish I had more time there to learn from more people about the quilting. It was so fascinating and beautiful! Congrats on finishing a quilt!! I bet it is amazing!

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